Justia Indiana Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's convictions of six offenses, including unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon in violation of Ind. Code 35-50-2-8, holding that none of Defendant's allegations of error required reversal.On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court erred in giving Preliminary Instruction 18, and that the error was fundamental. The court of appeals agreed and reversed. The Supreme Court granted transfer and affirmed, holding (1) Defendant invited any error that arose from Preliminary Instruction 18, which precluded relief on direct appeal; (2) the traffic stop leading to Defendant's arrest did not violate the Fourth Amendment; and (3) Defendant waived his last allegation of error. View "Miller v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court declining to allow Defendant, who was charged with several counts of child molesting, from deposing the child victim under the recently-enacted Ind. Code 35-40-5-11.5, which restricts the statutory right of criminal defendants accused of sexual offenses against children to depose prosecution witnesses, holding that there was no error.In 2020, the State charged Defendant with several counts of child molesting. Before Defendant sought to depose the child victim section 35-40-5-11.5 took effect. The trial court denied Defendant's ensuing motion to depose the child under the statute. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the statute impermissibly conflicted with the Indiana Trial Rules governing the conduct of depositions. The Supreme Court granted transfer and affirmed, holding (1) the statute was not being retroactively applied to Defendant; (2) the statute was not a procedural statute that could conflict with the Trial Rules and it did not violate constitutional separation of powers provisions; and (3) the statute did not violate any of Defendant's state or federal constitutional rights. View "Church v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court against the State on the State's delinquency petition that it filed against Anthony Neukam, holding that neither the juvenile court nor the circuit court had jurisdiction in this case.Neukam allegedly molested his young cousin both before and after he was eighteen. When Nuekam was twenty, the State brought charges against him in criminal court. When Neukam was twenty-two, the State filed a delinquency petition in juvenile court for acts Neukam allegedly committed before turning eighteen. Thereafter, the Supreme Court decided that juvenile courts lack jurisdiction over delinquency petitions once the accused is age twenty-one. The State then dismissed the juvenile case and moved to amend the criminal case to add counts of child molesting Neukam allegedly committed before he was eighteen. The trial court denied the motion. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that courts lack jurisdiction when an individual is alleged to have committed a delinquent act before turning eighteen but is over twenty-one when the State files charges. The Supreme Court granted transfer and affirmed, holding that no court had jurisdiction over the charges arising from arising from Neukam's alleged misconduct before his eighteenth birthday. View "State v. Neukam" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court granting summary judgment for Illinois Casualty Company in this declaratory judgment action, holding that a liquor liability exclusion in the relevant policy absolved Illinois Casualty of a duty to defend or indemnify its insured under its general business owners' policy.Illinois Casualty insured Big Daddy's Show Club. Third-parties filed a lawsuit against Big Daddy's and related entities (collectively, Parks defendants) claiming that Big Daddy's violated Indiana's Dram Shop Act, Ind. Code 7.1-5-10-15.5. Illinois Casualty field a separate declaratory judgment action seeking a declaration that it did not owe a duty to defend or indemnify the Parks defendants in the underlying lawsuit. The trial court granted summary judgment for Illinois Casualty. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Illinois Casualty did not owe a duty to defend or indemnify the Parks defendants under the relevant policies. View "Parks v. Illinois Casualty Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Insurance Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court in favor of Seneca Mortgage Services after finding that Neal Bruder breached the parties' consulting agreement by failing to pay the consultant's fee, holding that there was no error.The court of appeals reversed the judgment of the trial court, finding that Seneca's recovery of the fee would sanction the requirement of an illegal act as a condition of the loan Seneca obtained to Bruder. The Supreme Court granted transfer, vacated the court of appeals' opinion, and affirmed the trial court's judgment, holding (1) the record lacked support for the conclusion that Bruder was required, or even asked, to commit an illegal act; and (2) the parties' agreement provided for the consultant's fee to be paid regardless of whether a particular financing offer was accepted. View "Bruder v. Seneca Mortgage Services, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of a panel of the court of appeals dismissing an appeal in this temporary commitment case on the grounds that the appeal was moot, holding that "public interest exception" to mootness applied.After a hearing, the trial court found E.F. was gravely disabled and entered a temporary commitment order allowing for her emergency detention. While E.F.'s appeal was pending, the commitment order expired. The court of appeals dismissed E.F.'s appeal as moot, interpreting T.W. v. St. Vincent Hospital & Healthcare Center, Inc., 121 N.E.3d 1039 (Ind. 2019), as disfavoring the practice of applying the public interest exception except in "rare circumstances." The Supreme Court reversed, holding that E.F. should have the opportunity to make certain arguments before the court of appeals. View "In re Commitment of E.F." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part the order of the trial court finding that HEA-1123 is constitutional, holding that Governor Eric J. Holcomb was not procedurally barred from seeking declaratory relief on the constitutionality of House Enrolled Act 1123 (HEA-1123) and that the law is unconstitutional.HEA-1123, which was passed during the COVID-19 pandemic, authorizes the General Assembly to commence an "emergency session" under certain conditions through a simple resolution. The Governor vetoed the bill, finding it unconstitutional. The General Assembly overrode the Governor's veto, and the law went into effect. The Governor filed suit. The trial court found the HEA-1123 was constitutional. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) HEA-1123 violates Ind. Const. art. III, 1; and (2) by authorizing the Legislative Council to set an emergency session at a time when the General Assembly was not in session, HEA-1123 infringed on constitutional authority vested only in the Governor. View "Holcomb v. Bray" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's conviction for level-2 felony burglary while armed with a deadly weapon but reversed his sentence, holding that the length of Defendant's aggregate sentence exceeded the consecutive sentencing cap imposed by Ind. Code 35-50-1-2.A jury found Defendant guilty as charged and sentenced him to consecutive sentences cultivating in an aggregate term of thirty-eight and one-half years. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) burglary is an ongoing crime that encompasses a defendant's conduct inside the premises, terminating only when the unlawful invasion ends; and (2) the length of Defendant's aggregate sentence exceeded the maximum aggregate sentence permitted by the Sentencing Cap Statute. View "Fix v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant's sentence imposed in connection with his plea of guilty to four charges, including operating a vehicle while intoxicated and possession of marijuana, holding that any error was harmless.The trial court sentenced Defendant to a total of six years, with two suspended to probation. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court committed fundamental error by incorrectly advising him of his right to allocution. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant failed to prove that his sentence would have been different had he not testified and been subject to cross-examination. View "Strack v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant's conviction of one count of felony child molestation, holding that the trial court denied Defendant's requests for a continuance.An impermissible local rule and an improperly issued protective order prevented Defendant's defense attorney from obtaining a copy of the alleged victim's interview. Further, the trial court denied Defendant's requests for a continuance when the state disclosed extensive new evidence the day before trial in order to investigate the new allegations and reconstruct trial strategy. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court (1) erred in prohibiting Defendant from obtaining a copy of the interview before trial, but reversal was not required on this basis; and (2) abused its discretion by denying Defendant's continuance request, and the error was prejudicial. View "Ramirez v. State" on Justia Law